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Eupnea Collective

· Paint storytelling

Eupnea {meaning “breathing in unison”} came together during the strange year of 2020, initially as a Creativity Lab and then during the pandemic lockdowns as a remote contemplative observation group.

From these beginnings, the collective developed and then decided to use the Arte Laguna prize as an opportunity for a co-creative experience. Through experimentation and iteration, the group moved towards the four collective works presented here. Each collective work is composed of an original ‘catalytic’ piece by a different artist in our collective and pieces made by the other members in resonance with it.

This lead us to create small sketches or paintings using the other's artists purpose word:

  • Giorgia: soul, the source, wholeness
  • Donna: sense of belonging and identity 
  • Joy: everyday magic
  • Anastasya: ownership

and artwork or style as well.

We experienced a sort of "step into the shoes" type exercise to engage our dialogue.

Through that we started to evolve together in our art style and to find resonance and influences from each-others.

We also started to create composite co-created artworks together.

This is how we describe ourselves and our experience: The founding artists of the collective have used the nurturing structure of the collective to catalyse new explorations in their individual and conjoined artistic journeys. As a collective, the artists of Eupnea have engaged in an iterative artistic conversation - passing inspiration generously between them - to develop composite pieces. The presented works draw on the artists’ experiences as humans (women), as immigrants, as travellers, as introspects and, in collective, as social beings in search of rich connections. The pieces themselves both document that search and record some of the treasures unearthed collectively during it - they are a visual representation of a conversation between souls and an encounter between East and West represented by the different origins and cultures of the artists and an effort to go beyond the differences and find what at the core unify the artists as human beings and souls.

This artistic experiment is also intended as a reflection of:

1. How important it is to have an open mind and heart in order to understand, connect and embrace ourselves and the points of view of others so we can build on each other’s strength to better face our emotional struggle and enhance our creativity process

2. How important is co-creation at different levels:

  • Individual: it has been an experience on how the identity of each person develops in relationship with others and in response to the environment and the culture 
  • Group: the group artistic conversation has been an accelerator of connection and friendship. Often happening online because of Covid 19 limitations, it has also led to the realization that technology (mixed with art) has not been a limitation but actually an enabler. This setting and the inclusiveness of the group has created a safe space where each artist could really express themselves, speak about intimate things and open the soul to others; 
  • Society: In our complex and uncertain society, co-creation and the tapping of collective intelligence is a rising need. The composite artwork process allows a reflection on the conditions needed to catalyze that.
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Catalytic piece: The WORLD Archetype (by Giorgia Madonno)- Painting N. 1 in the combine

This painting represents an archetype, a way to observe and describe ourselves and the world with universal lens and language, a way that can touch our un-logical unconscious through metaphors and that highly resonates with the artistic language. This specific archetype is called “The world” (using Tarot's name) and for me it represents the last stage of a journey of transformation when we finally arrive where we are meant to be, it invites us to have the courage to take this path . In the painting, the ice is breaking, the spring is arriving, the door is open and inviting.

The human figure comes from a very ancient inscription drawing found in caves in China. In order to bridge East and West cultures and find the essence of who we are below the cultural mask, I go back at the source of humanity artistic search: in the caves in Europe, where our ancestors were carving their first form of art and inscriptions and in China when the ancient seal script characters are born (so similar to American rupestrian inscriptions to drive us to ask ourselves if there is really any distinction). I merged all these inspirations with our contemporary visual language: carved inscriptions and graffiti with spray. I create texture and use my hometown ground powder to anchor my art to my origins, after so many years in Asia that have transformed me so much. This is important for me because our origins are part of our foundations, journey and identity.

Resonant pieces: Donna Chiu - Painting N. 4 in the combine

Giorgia’s work is an invitation to step into the unknown and experience the possibilities, good or bad, and be courageous to take a chance.

My work, in response to this, explores the visions of the world encountered after stepping out. The white layer separates the different slices of transformation, the outcome is still in progress. The usage of different medium, including acrylic, Chinese ink and paint spray represent my mix culture experience and influence in my artistic journey.

Resonant pieces: Joy Haughton - Painting N. 2 in the combine

The original piece gave me a strong sense of a human figure, probably an ancient or archetypal one with some magical or mystical flavour. I also wanted to reflect in my piece some aspects Giorgia represents for me - she is a connector (she brought us together) and she is connected to her roots and to the roots she makes for herself along the way. So I used an ancient human element from Giorgia’s Italian roots (Fumane cave paintings) and a human element from our Collective that she brought together (our hands) to form the building blocks of my piece. I wanted to record the feeling working with Eupnea has given me - stepping into a gentle, somewhat unknown mist together to explore deeply our art and our humanity.

Resonant pieces: Anastasiya Berasneve - Painting N. 3 in the combine

This milky colour in the centre of Giorgia’s painting just makes you want to jump in. And when you do, you do, you do not know what is next and what it feels like, it almost promises to be warm and good – but you can never know. My reflection of Giorgia’s work is the possibilities of different outcomes. They can be fulfilled or empty, any shape and form and one can try it all.

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Catalytic piece: RAINBOW OF OURSELVES (by Joy Haughton) - Painting N. 3 in the combine

This piece started with a question: “what are the colors in the void?”. Which developed into another question: “could there be a rainbow of blacks?” For some people a rainbow of blacks may be a depressing idea. For me, it is the opposite - an invigorating invitation into the unknown. The original piece started to explore this darker unknown, but I realized once I saw the contributions of the other Eupnea members that it was as though I had been looking into the void with a dying pocket torch! Their pieces expanded the hints of the original piece to give a sense of a whole inner universe, boundary less and fascinating.

Resonant pieces: Giorgia Madonno - Painting N. 1 in the combine

The original painting brought me in another word, a word behind, not immediately accessible, dissolving easily, very light, real and unreal at the same time, mysterious. I felt like walking in another dimension, actually multiple dimensions going through a wall of colors and structural shapes. So, I created an artwork light and with multiple layers, like a sky reflected on transparent and structured glass pieces. I wanted to give a “misty” feeling and so I used spray color on top of the wall patty used to give texture to the piece and then, adding up here and there a touch of colors reflected by the wall of colors from the original painting. My sky wants to open space to fly into multiple and coexisting realities of the world created by Joy

Resonant pieces: Donna Chiu - Painting N. 2 in the combine

Joy’s curiosity to explore the rainbow of blacks and her positive energy gives me a new perspective to explore the spectrum of the unknown at both ends. The two journeys are a journey of realization.

At one end, though dark, the experience encompasses a sense of urge to break free from the forest of fear, to create a new form of life. When the new life travels to the opposite end, in its distilled form, it transforms and contextualizes the experience to glimpses and impressions of wonderland which the unknown could be.

My work at the two ends of the spectrum is created by a mixture of different mediums including acrylic, watercolor, Chinese ink, impasto gel and paste.

Resonant pieces: Anastasiya Berasneva - Painting N. 4 in the combine

Joy’s painting is very dimensional with rainbow belt solid in the middle of it all. However, when I was exploring Joy’s painting somehow, I was drawn to the bottom middle part, which is a more fluid and unknown dimension. And although at first instance it felt so light and translucent when I looked at it long enough, I started feeling like I am falling, and there is nothing to hold on to and it is not an easy feeling. This is what I tried to reflect in my painting – a lot of space that I need to swim through or even sink in with small oases of faded colour that will help me to get to the ridges that I created with texture paste.

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Catalytic piece: THE VOID (by Donna Chiu) - Painting N. 4 in the combine

The void is a hole in my life, a hole of sorrow and melancholy, of the lost that cannot be changed, or beyond my ability to intervene. The dwelling moments in it are just so unbearable, because of the torturing pain.

It came to my realization that there is no way to fight and escape. The only resolution is acceptance, to learn to co-exist and co-habit with this darkness. Then perhaps, peace will come to light along the journey.

Resonant pieces: Joy - Painting N. 1 in the combine

The original piece gave me a feeling of a cave and the ancient, mystical things that fascinate and terrify us in caves - both actual caves and in the dark, hollow parts of our inner worlds. So, I set out with the idea to take the rounded, deep elements of the original piece and see where I could dare to go! Very quickly in the creation of the piece, a pair of glowing eyes emerged from the darkness - not consciously intentional, but immediately struck me as entirely fitting. The ancient, terrifying, fascinating things are waiting to emerge when we have the courage to let them. Donna’s piece gave me the courage to explore mine.

Resonant pieces: Giorgia Madonno - Painting N. 2 in the combine

The original piece brought me to a cave representing a mystical, scary place in our unconscious. It looked to me like a very ancient space and my mind went to Ulysses' journey when mythological figures (sirens) were attracting boats and men into the gorges to destroy them and I thought about our internal ghosts and how it is difficult, scary and sometimes dangerous facing them but also so much needed to progress in our personal journey (like Ulysses did). I also felt a sense of separation, loneliness and difficulty to reach something, maybe peace.

Based on this I created a piece that can represent also a cave but seen from top, a scary place we need to walk into, a place that might look like our bones spine, where we need to go inside, in our structural self and face our fear, accepting it as part of our journey and who we are. This is a journey that every person needs to walk, it does not matter the origins. Human beings are the same below any cultural mask.

For this reason, in terms of artistic style, in this painting I carved lines, unscripted symbols that are inspired by caves ancient inscriptions and used graffiti spray (our modern “cave inscriptions”), with the purpose of bridging East and West cultures by going back to the source of humanity artistic search: in the caves in Europe, where our ancestors were carving their first form of art and inscriptions and in China when the ancient seal script characters are born (so similar to American rupestrian inscriptions to drive us to ask ourselves if there is really any distinction).

Resonant pieces: Anastasiya Berasneva - Painting N. 3 in the combine

Donna accepts the existence of darkness and her work is a very beautiful and distilled way of showing how it might look to co-exist with the void - ‘hole in her life’. This painting was a true test for me, my attempt to work with fears/monster even if they are not my own. I experienced a real physical feeling of fear and anxiety when I started my reflection of her painting but I tried to paint through these feelings, I tried to make it feel ok. I think adding a lot of texture with various acrylic mediums made me feel like I can touch some of these emotions and it was new to me and it felt good.

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Catalytic piece: OBSERVING THE FEAR (by Anastasiya Berasneva) - Painting N. 2 in the combine

This painting is about my fears, my struggles, my discomfort with myself, and I know all these feelings are there and they make me sad a lot but I do not face them from inside I just look at them. Do not want to accept them, almost like creating another reality, where I know they are there but they are not mine. And even in this painting I try to create something that looks better than it feels. But no matter how much I try to hold on to my shield and my ice cover, it is cracking and hiding becomes more and more difficult.


Resonant pieces: Giorgia Madonno - Painting N. 3 in the combine

In this artwork I felt to be in an open space, with snow and cold. I saw a person standing in front of a mountain iced lake observing the void, wanting to look inside but for some reason not doing so, maybe because the ice looks so fragile. The lake then in my mind transformed into a cloud, a bubble which could easily disappear, implode or move away. I thought that we need void, silence to go on a journey of deep reflection. My painting mirrors the same landscape, an iced mountain where instead of a lake there is a crevasse, looking a bit like a wound. I used to trek on iced mountain such as Monte Rosa in Italy and when you are in all this white and in front of the crevasse, you feel small and fragile and while walking slow in this wide open landscape you go inside yourself and your interior crevasse open up together with the joy, the mystery, the beauty of being alive and being able to witness such a beauty around and inside yourself.


Resonant pieces: Donna Chiu - Painting N. 4 in the combine

I see a lot of struggles, the wish to break through the fear to move forward in Anastasiya’s painting, and I am very captivated by this sense of internal conflict. As such, I express this internal battle in my work, with a twist in my interpretation. I create a world intersecting the internal and the external, and the eagerness to step out. At the same time, I also introduce another vintage point that is unclear if it belongs to the outsiders who are inspecting the feeling of the painter, or it belongs to the painter who is inspecting something she wants to keep a distance.


Resonant pieces: Joy Haughton - Painting N. 1 in the combine

I had an immediate feeling from the original piece of trekking through an icy landscape towards a deep lake. I wanted to capture the sense of beauty and danger this gave me in my piece. Many years ago, I worked as an archivist for the photographs of the 1914-16 Shackleton expedition to Antarctica by Frank Hurley. The original piece immediately brought to mind Hurley’s photographs and so I used one of his photographs of an Antarctic ice cave to inspire the tonality of my piece. As my entire experience with Eupnea has flirted with ideas of the ancient, it appealed to me to use one of the earliest photographs of the Antarctic as inspiration for this piece.